From the beginning, I had a plan. It was, in retrospect, not a very good plan; it lacked a certain degree of realism, but it was a plan nonetheless. It was more than most people had.
My parents didn’t understand.
I thought it up while drinking frappucinos at Starbucks, which I found to be a much more productive use of my time than conjugating verbs in Spanish class. I wrote it all out in a notebook that I carried with me.
I was seventeen.
I’d start by living in my car for two or three weeks. I’d sleep at truck stops and wash up in gas station bathrooms. After I’d worked a few weeks, I’d have enough money for rent.
But that was just the beginning.
Eventually, my parents heard about my skipping Spanish for Starbucks. We got into yet another big argument. That was enough for me.
I took out my notebook and started packing.
My mom cried when she saw what I was doing. My dad tried to talk me out of it, but soon gave up.
“The Lord’s will be done,” he shrugged. “I guess He can’t steer a car that’s not moving.”
I had no clue what he meant.
There’s a hardness that builds up in every family, a hardness that drives a wedge between children and their parents. It’s that hardness that drove me on, that made me determined to succeed on my own, out from under their watchful eyes.
My parents prayed over me.
Despite my determination, I began to have second thoughts. Who wouldn’t? But I couldn’t stop. And as I became more nervous, my parents seemed less so. Mom packed me a box of sandwiches and apples. My dad gave me their old tent and a book of campgrounds with the cheap ones a couple of hundred miles south highlighted.
“Why down south?” I asked.
We talked about one campground after another. His eyes lit up as he spoke; I was almost afraid he was going to ask if he could join me.
I never did tell them the whole plan. I don’t know why; maybe I just didn’t want to hear why it wouldn’t work.
I was going to rent an apartment, once I could afford it, and split the cost with a roommate. I’d work long hours and not spend a dime, and soon, I’d put a down payment on a house. I’d rent out the other bedrooms to pay the mortgage, and then I’d buy another house and another. I’d live like a monk for about five years and afterward, I’d be set.
That was the plan. I was determined to make it work despite having all of fifty-eight dollars to my name.
Fifty-eight dollars. Perhaps all those frappucinos hadn’t been such a good idea, after all.
Inevitably, my plan failed, as most earthly plans do. I found a job at Wendy’s, but I had to change campgrounds every couple of weeks, and it rained a lot, then snowed. It wasn’t fun. I ended up moving again, further south.
In time, I did find a job in construction. But the rental properties I began accumulating by living like a monk were populated by frappucino-swilling brats who couldn’t pay the rent and wouldn’t know a plan if it bit them. When the housing market broke, I lost everything, including my job.
That’s the problem with plans; they take on a life of their own.
So I started studying. I got my GED, and went to a local community college. Eventually, I worked my way through Florida State, became an electrical engineer, and married the most wonderful woman I’d ever met, as if the whole thing had been worked out in advance, as if it’d been planned from above.
Years have passed, and my own children are getting older. And sometimes when I make them go to Sunday School or do their chores, I see that anger, that hardness, beginning to take hold.
I know it’s going to break my heart when they leave.
But I have faith, faith that they’ll go well-raised and determined, faith that they’ll have their own plans and dreams, plans and dreams that are probably destined to fail because, after all, you can’t steer a car that’s not moving.
But their dreams will lead them to where they’re meant to be. And inevitably, a plan will succeed, the plan that always succeeds, the only one that matters, the plan that comes from God.
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